What does it mean for travelers that Breeze Airways now has a 'base' at TF Green?
Breeze Airways Wednesday officially opened a "base" at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport – gold scissors, ribbon and all – but what does that mean for travelers?
As of Thursday, the budget airline will fly from Green directly to six cities, eight if you count flights that continue on after one stop without having to change planes.
By May 18, Breeze plans to add five more routes, including Providence to Los Angeles International Airport.
And by July 14 the airline will add three more flights to get to 16 total.
Some of those flights are seasonal – including Los Angeles – and disappear again in the fall.
But by making Green a "base," with jets, pilots, maintenance workers, flight attendants and ground staff based in Providence, Breeze officials say over the next five years they plan to continue adding routes until they get to at least 20.
"We have doubled in size each year," Michael Wuerger, Breeze's chief operations officer, said at a ribbon-cutting news conference at the airport Wednesday. "By summer of last year we went from three to six nonstops. This summer Breeze is offering 13 nonstops from PVD and BreezeThru one-stop to three more."
Aside from the flights themselves, Breeze just began work building 3,000 square feet of operations space on the ground floor of the terminal and 7,000 square feet of warehouse space, both of which are expected to be finished in July.
Wuerger said Breeze now employs around 95 people at Green, but that is expected to grow to 250 people in the years ahead.
"We have committed to Rhode Island for at least the next 12 years," he said.
What is Breeze getting from the state?
To get Breeze to land in Rhode Island the state granted the airline a package of incentives and reimbursements.
The largest piece is $1.2 million per year over five years (total $6 million) from the state's Air Service Development Fund to market the airline. The airline is also eligible for up to $2 million from the same fund over three years for "ground handling."
$2.3 million per year from the state's Air Service Development Fund, about half of which pays for marketing Breeze destinations and half for ground operations for the airline.
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation last fall also approved roughly $300,000 per year in tax credits under the state's Qualified Jobs program. If Breeze hits employment targets in the deal it would receive around $2.9 million in tax credits through 2034, according to a Commerce analysis.
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation, which runs T.F. Green, has reimbursed Breeze $200,000 for marketing new routes.
And it has reimbursed Breeze $3.5 million for modifying spaces at the terminal including "relocations for Breeze, JetBlue and United," Airport Corporation spokesman John Goodman said.
For context, he added that the airport plans to buy new jet bridges for Delta, United "and potentially three other gates in the near future and also will undertake improvements to the baggage system that could exceed $20 million."
At least some incentives could be ending soon. The Federal Aviation Administration allows airports across the country to waive landing and other fees for new airlines for up to two years, but only two years. Breeze first started flying out of Green in the spring of 2021.
In the past, T.F. Green has struggled to retain new airlines and routes past that two-year mark.
According to a presentation to the House Finance Committee last week, of 16 new routes the state marketed in recent years, only two routes are still active and two of four airlines involved still fly to the airport.
Why aren't Los Angeles flights year round?
The long-awaited Breeze flights to Los Angeles are slated to start May 17 and run through Labor Day. (They will be direct Wednesdays and Saturdays and one stop-same plane the rest of the week.)
The first T.F. Green flights to the West Coast were supposed to start a year ago, but were put on hold after going on sale.
Starting Wednesday, Breeze is also flying with one stop from Green to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Orange County, Calif. That route is also seasonal.
Asked why the California flights are not year round, Breeze spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said the airline is targeting vacationers, not business travelers, and more leisure travelers travel in the summer than the rest of the year.
"Summer demand is peak vacation time to get either east or west, that's our peak leisure time," he said.
As has been the case for years, and was particularly pronounced on European routes, there is greater demand to fly from Rhode Island than to Rhode Island. That remains the case for the West Coast, he said.
The current Breeze routes from T.F. Green are: Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Penn.; Provo, Utah; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; New Orleans, La.; Orange County, Calif.
Starting in May: Los Angeles, Norfolk, Va.; Jacksonville, Fla.l Richmond, Va.; Tampa, Fla.
Starting in July: Fort Myers, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; Sarasota, Fla.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Breeze Airways opens 'base' at RI's TF Green, flying direct to 8 cities